Sunday, December 4, 2016

2 December 1805: Battle of Austerlitz. Mementos of the killing field.

On the first anniversary of the creation of the Empire, Napoleon won "the greatest battle of [his] career" when he defeated the forces of Austria and Russia at Austerlitz (Slavkov) near Brünn (Brno) in Moravia. The triumph was so decisive that it ended the War of the Third Coalition and forced Austria to sue for peace.

The Emperor's encampment at Austerlitz after a drawing made on the scene the morning of the battle

Battle of Austerlitz: The Emperor gives his orders to the Marshals

General Rapp brings the Emperor news of the victory at Austerlitz

The above engravings are from Abel Hugo, France militaire. Histoire des armées françaises de terre et mer de 1792 à 1837, 5 vols. (Paris: Delloye, 1838)

Pictured here are pieces of ammunition recovered from the battlefield.

• Iron canister shot: a tin of 112 balls (61 for a four-pounder gun) could be used with devastating effectiveness against infantry at a range of some 300-500 meters

• Lead musket ball

One has to pause to remind oneself of the terrible damage that such large but low-velocity projectiles did, especially in the absence of modern medicine and sanitation.
Casualties amounted to one eighth of the French forces and one third of the Austro-Russian.

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